Updated: February 21, 2024

In recent years, Portugal has seen an influx of expats looking to take advantage of programs like Portugal’s Golden Visa and make the country their new home. The country has become an ideal destination among Americans because the cost of living in Portugal compared to the USA is significantly cheaper. According to a January 2024 cost comparison by Numbeo, consumer prices, including rent, are 40.8 percent lower in Portugal than in the United States.

Relocating to a new country is never an easy choice to make. There are a lot of adjustments to make when building your life in a new country, but this can be made easier when the country offers a warm climate, the rich culture and warmth of Portuguese people, picturesque landscapes, and stunning beaches. These aspects are part of what makes Portugal such a welcoming and ideal choice for so many expats. The affordability of the country makes the move that bit sweeter and is a considerable factor in why so many expats are heading to Portugal.

In this article, we’ll compare the cost of living in Portugal vs USA, looking at housing costs, groceries, transportation and utility costs, private and international schools, plus more, so that you are clued up on what to expect in terms of costs of living.

Exploring the Cost of Living in Portugal vs USA 

cost-of-living-in-portugal-vs-usa

The cost of living is one of the most important factors to consider when relocating to a new country. Fortunately for expats in search of countries with a low cost of living and high quality of life, the cost of living is fairly affordable in Portugal compared to many other countries in Western Europe and the cost of living in America.

It is also one of the few countries in the world where expats consistently highly rate Portugal as a great country to relocate to due to the efficient public healthcare system, stable economy, exceptionally affordable housing prices, and finally, the sublime Mediterranean climate and beautiful beaches.

Our residence and citizenship division, Global Citizen Solutions, has a pioneering Quality of Life Index that ranks countries based on the cost of living, Sustainable Development Goals, levels of freedom, happiness levels, migrant acceptance, and environmental performance. Portugal is ranked 13th on the Index, while the United States of America (USA) is ranked 39th.

An international cost of living comparison

A good way to get a more detailed idea of the Portugal cost of living vs the US is to compare the cost of living between major cities in both countries. Below, we will share a cost-of-living comparison between the capitals of Portugal and America.

  • The purchase price per square meter for a single bedroom apartment in the city center is €5,818 in Lisbon and €13 673 in Washington, DC 
  • Consumer prices in Lisbon, including rent, are 52.8 percent lower than in Washington, DC 
  • Average rent prices are 56.4 percent lower in Lisbon than in Washington, DC 
  • Grocery prices are 52 percent lower in Lisbon than in Washington, DC 
  • Restaurant prices are 53 percent lower in Lisbon than in Washington, DC

Living Expenses in Portugal vs the USA 

As we have established, for American expats earning foreign income or a monthly salary higher than the Portuguese minimum wage of €820, living in Portugal is affordable and, generally speaking, considerably lower than the average cost of living in the US. Living in Portugal offers foreign residents and citizens alike lower taxes, such as lower income tax rates, sales taxes, and other forms of taxation. Other costs that are considered more affordable in Portugal than in other several other countries include food and fresh produce, cheaper public transportation and gas prices, and other general living costs. Let’s have a look at some more specific examples.

Groceries and household essentials

Groceries are pretty affordable in Portugal, particularly when you buy local goods rather than imported products. Anything grown or caught in Portugal, such as fruit, vegetables, seafood, and meat, is guaranteed to be more affordable. The table below outlines the average prices of some basic food items in Portugal compared to USA.

ItemPortugalUSA
1L milk€0.93€0.98
Loaf of fresh white bread€1.39€3.32
A dozen eggs€2.76€3.53
1kg apples€1.99€4.97
1kg chicken fillets€6.81€11.34
1kg beef round€11.69€14.88
1kg local cheese€9.78€12.01
0.5L bottle domestic beer€1.12€1.62
Bottle mid-range wine€4.50€13.86

Leisure and Entertainment in Portugal compared to the US

Now, let’s look at some of the costs related to recreational activities, sports, hobbies, movies, and other entertainment most people will expect to pay a fortune for. While living in Portugal you will find that even miscellaneous services such as haircuts, home repairs, garbage collection, and other services are available at cheaper rates.

 

Sports and fitness

Staying in shape in Portugal is much more affordable than it is in the US. The average monthly fee at a fitness club for one adult is €36 in Portugal, while access to a fitness club in America will set you back about €52 per month.

 

Alcohol costs

As you can see from the table, alcohol is much cheaper in Portugal than in the USA. A good bottle of wine will set you back €4.50 in Portugal but costs three times as much in the USA. Similarly, a bottle of domestic beer is €1.12 in Portugal but over double the price in the USA. Imported beer is not much more expensive at €2.02 in Portugal, while in the USA, it clocks in at €3.27.

 

Eating out costs

eating-out-in-Portugal-vs-USA

In Portugal, eating out is a big part of the local culture. What makes it even more enjoyable is the fact that restaurant prices can be very affordable. At a local pastelaria (pastry shop) you’ll usually find a lunch menu for €5 and a toasted sandwich for about €2 or €3. At a café, lunch, including wine or coffee, usually costs between €8 and €12. A regular cappuccino will cost you €1.70 and gets cheaper the further away you move from the city centers.

For dinner options, a meal at an inexpensive restaurant will cost around €10, while a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost €40. In terms of fast food, a McMeal or equivalent combo meal at McDonald’s will cost €7.93, while the same meal will cost €10.16 in the USA.

 

Transportation costs in Portugal vs USA

For the most part, transportation costs in Portugal are lower than in the USA. Some exceptions include the costs of purchasing petrol and a new car, which are generally more affordable in the USA.

However, if you prefer to use public transportation, you’ll find it much cheaper in Portugal. Here, a monthly pass costs €40, a one-way ticket on local transportation costs €1.70, and the cross-country train ticket, also known as the Portugal Rail Pass, can be purchased from just €49.

 

School costs in Portugal vs USA

As in any country, education can come at a high cost, depending on the option you choose. Educational costs include tuition fees for schools and universities and additional educational expenses like books, supplies, and possibly accommodation and public transportation. If your children are not of school age yet, you will need to consider childcare services such as babysitting and early education programs. The monthly fee for babysitting or kindergarten in Portugal compared to the USA average of €1,294.97 is just €393.01

In Portugal, public school is free for all Portuguese citizens and foreign residents. However, if you choose to send your children to one of the exclusive private schools or international schools in Portugal, you will find yourself paying upwards of €9,273.98 each year. This cost will vary depending on the school and your child’s grade. In comparison, private international schools in the USA will cost around €22,640.96 per year.

 

Traveling costs

A highlight of Portugal is that traveling around the country is quite affordable. Portugal has a great public transport system, and you spend as little as €80 a day on activities. Of course, the cost of accommodation will vary depending on where you stay and the kind of property it is.

 

Healthcare costs

healthcare-cost-of-living-portugal-vs-usa

The Portugal healthcare system is excellent and offers both public and private healthcare options. You also shouldn’t have a problem finding doctors comfortable conversing in English, which should put you at ease if you don’t speak Portuguese. Children under 18 years and seniors over 65 receive free medical care, while everyone else is required to pay a small contribution.

While healthcare here is not completely free, it is affordable. The World Health Organization ranked Portugal in 12th place in their assessment of healthcare systems. The World Index of Healthcare Innovation considers choice, quality, science and technology, and fiscal sustainability in their ranking and listed Portugal in 22nd position in 2022.

It is also a well-known fact that private health insurance is fairly affordable in Portugal. The cost of health insurance for expats in Portugal offering basic coverage ranges between €25 to €35 per month while in the United States most Americans pay around €500 per month for a basic private healthcare plan.

ItemLocationCost
GP visitIn the US$100
Portugal public healthcareFree or €5 ($6.17)
Portugal private healthcare€50 ($61.55)
Dental cleaningIn the US$120
Portugal public healthcareFree
Portugal private healthcare€25 ($30.85)
Hip replacement surgeryIn the US$40,000
Portugal public healthcareMinimal co-pay
Portugal private healthcare€4,000-€20,000 ($4,924-$24,618)
MammogramIn the US$250
Portugal public healthcareMinimal co-pay
Portugal private healthcare€75 ($92.32)

 

Housing costs in Portugal

Housing costs in Portugal are around 45.7 percent lower than in the USA. For example, a one-bedroom apartment for rent in the city center will cost €927.18 per month in Portugal and €1,706.66 in the USA. A three-bedroom apartment outside a Portuguese city center will cost €1,675.29 per month, while in the USA, it will cost €2,870.82 per month. It is important to bear in mind that prices will vary between large cities like Lisbon, which is the most expensive city to live in Portugal, and the second largest city, Porto.

 

Buying property in Portugal vs the USA

Buying property in Portugal is a popular investment among expats. Portugal Real estate in a big city like Lisbon will cost around €150,000 on the outskirts, getting more expensive the closer you move to the city center. An apartment in the city center will cost around €3,215.37 per square meter and around €2,299.54 per square meter outside the city center.

 

Electricity and bills expenses in Portugal vs USA

In Portugal, basic monthly utilities for an 85-square-meter apartment, including electricity, heating, air conditioning, water, and garbage, will cost €110.34. In the USA, this will cost around €197.92. This cost will vary based on the season and how often you use amenities like aircon and heating. In Portugal, apartments can get quite cold during winter, so make sure yours has a good heating system.

 

Cost of Moving to Portugal

cost-of-moving-from-USA-to-Portugal

When relocating to Portugal, it is important to consider the actual cost of moving to Portugal from the USA. You can expect to incur the following costs:

  • Shipping expenses to transport your belongings 
  • Plane ticket to Portugal 
  • Rental deposit (if renting) 
  • New phone plan 
  • Cost of additional goods to help you get settled 

These costs will vary based on the mode of shipping (such as plane or ship), the airline you choose, the area you rent in, and so on.

How to move to Portugal?

To move to Portugal from the USA, you need to have the legal right to reside in the country. Visit our Portugal Immigration Guide for more information.

 

Get in touch with our Portugal immigration team

Goldcrest is a local buyer’s agent situated in Portugal. We provide insightful real estate expertise and strategic advice. From sourcing to property acquisition, we help clients identify outstanding investment opportunities in some of Portugal’s finest locations.

Whether you’re a family looking to relocate or invest in land for redevelopment, our team of experts can help you find the right property without the hassle or fuss. Contact us to get the ball rolling on your Portuguese real estate investment.

As you can see, there are many benefits to moving to Portugal from the USA. The only downside you may find is dealing with Portugal’s bureaucratic processes, which many foreigners find a bit difficult to deal with. It helps to have a trusted professional who speaks the language to help you during these times.

Aside from this, you are bound to experience a greater quality of life at a more affordable cost, leaving to free to enjoy the rich culture, delicious cuisine, and breathtaking sites the country has to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Cost of Living in Portugal vs USA 

What are the living costs in Portugal versus the US? 

Consumer prices in Portugal are approximately 38.1 percent lower than those in the United States (excluding rent). Living in Portugal can be a cost-saving option, allowing individuals to stretch their budget and potentially save money compared to living in the US.

The average cost of living in Portugal is around €1,500 per month, depending on where in Portugal you live. Portugal is considered one of the most affordable countries in Western Europe and is, on average, 40.8 percent cheaper than living in the United States.

It is cheaper to live in Portugal, where the cost of living in Lisbon is an average of 52.8 percent lower than the living cost in Washington DC, USA.

Your monthly costs in Portugal will vary depending on the area you live in, whether you are an individual or family unit, and your lifestyle choices.

In Portugal, your biggest expense each month will likely be your rent. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center can cost around €927.18 each month, and your monthly utilities can cost around €110.34.